While the bright lights of Broadway are currently dimmed, the Virtual Babysitters Club is helping families stay entertained and giving performers of all stripes the opportunity to do what they do best: Put on a show.
“When the pandemic hit, the entire entertainment industry came to a halt,” says Casey Shane, who has been a core member of the team since the idea germinated with co-founders Kyle Reilly and Kristina Hanford. “This all started because for the entire performing community—actors, artists, set designers, lighting designers, you name it—everything came to a stop: No more tours, no more shows. We couldn’t do what we love to do. This idea has re-inspired us as artists. Now we all have this incredible opportunity to continue doing our craft. What better way to do that than to continue to create—and to do it for kids?”
Parents can book individual or group sessions in areas such as dance, music, art and story time for their kids, enlisting Broadway performers, Juilliard-trained musicians and international puppeteers to delight their little ones while they work. All sessions are done virtually over secure Zoom rooms; parents can check in throughout the session or look in from another device.
Shane, the son of two Broadway performers, followed the family tradition, spending years performing off-Broadway before embarking on a hosting career. In normal times, he hosts the international touring shows of the America’s Got Talent brand, and spent the past two years hosting MasterChef Junior Live! shows across the country. For the VBC, as “captain” of the game department, he runs the game studio, creating game shows to entertain kids from as young as 3 years old, and he hosts live trivia-game sessions himself (Beat the Board, for ages 7 and up, and Smarty Pants for 3- to6-year-old set).
“We’re creating virtual escape rooms for kids, which we call ‘Breakout Adventures,’ interactive puzzle games, and other creative ways to engage kids through a screen that isn’t your average Netflix or social media,” says Shane. “Kids have a great time, and it gives the parents the opportunity to keep working—or just breathe for a while.”
This summer, families can send their kids to virtual summer camp. “Kids can spend summer days with us and get a taste of all we have to offer.” With over 75 performers already in the company, the kids are in for a special experience. “We believe a lot of the content we create is enriching and educational for these kids, but it’s definitely entertainment first.”
They’ve had such success with the little ones that parents are now seeking out their services for adult groups, and the VBC has got its eyes on another community in need right now: seniors. “We know how isolated they’ve been throughout this pandemic, and we’re excited to bring them some joy,” says Shane. virtualbabysittersclub.com